A third of households skip meals or reduce portion sizes, and nearly two-thirds would struggle to raise $400 quickly, according to a survey about months of runaway inflation hurting ordinary Americans.
Consumer data firm Dunnhumby says customers are increasingly feeling the pain of rising grocery prices, which many respondents said were far higher than the official rate of 13.5 percent recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Food insecurity is on the rise across the country, researchers found, with 18 percent of the survey’s roughly 2,000 participants saying they didn’t get enough food to eat.
A further 31 per cent of households have skipped or cut down on the size of their meals in the past year because their cupboards were bare – a 5 per cent increase since they were last asked in May and June.
Millions of Americans also lack a financial safety net, researchers found. About 64 percent said they wouldn’t be able to raise $400 in a pinch—up 4 percent from five months ago.
Results varied across states that participated in the study. Only 42 percent of Wisconsin residents said they would struggle to raise the money quickly, compared to 77 percent of residents in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
A customer buys eggs at a grocery store in Houston, Texas. Eggs rose in price by almost 40 per cent in the year to August, as inflation put a strain on consumers’ wallets
As a result, consumers walk with their wallets. Since April-May, shoppers have shifted 2.1 percent of their spending to low-cost ‘dollar stores’, while reducing spending by 1.1 percent at luxury stores, researchers said.
Grant Steadman, Dunnhumby’s regional president, said that while ‘inflation may moderate’ across parts of the economy, grocery prices have remained high and ‘consumers are responding by changing their shopping behaviour’.
“Perhaps most concerning, nearly one-third cut back or completely eliminate some meals,” Steadman added after the survey of about 2,000 consumers.
The survey comes as Americans faced another month of economic hardship and while average gasoline prices have fallen to $3.79 per gallon. gallon, the pain is increasingly felt by shoppers at grocery checkouts.
The data also comes 35 days before the midterm elections, when voters will decide which party will control Congress for the next two years of Joe Biden’s presidency, and many say the economy is foremost on their minds.
U.S. consumer prices rose unexpectedly in August, up 8.3 percent from a year earlier, and underlying inflation accelerated due to rising costs of rent, health care and food.
According to the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index, the overall cost of food rose 11.4 percent, while the food-at-home category, groceries, rose 13.5 percent — the steepest increase since the late 1970s.
Jesus Montiel, Krista Mason and their daughter Diana, 2, spend time together at their home in Afton, Wyoming, where inflation has made it even harder for working parents to manage a household
Shoppers have noticed the sharp rise in the price of eggs, which rose almost 40 per cent in the year to August – meaning the price of a dozen rose from $4.63 to as much as $7.69 in some stores.
Other pantry staples that have seen big price rises include milk (which rose 17 per cent in the year to August), oranges (14 per cent), roasted coffee (18.7 per cent), margarine (38.3 per cent) and breakfast cereals (23.3 percentage).
As well as seeing prices trend upwards, many shoppers have taken to social media to complain about ‘shrinkflation’ – manufacturers reducing the size of their products and not lowering prices.
Others have noted that the price of food has risen at grocery stores (13.5 percent), while food bills have risen an average of 8 percent, the Labor Department says — making restaurants relatively cheaper.
Supermarket prices have risen faster because they are more directly affected by rising food costs and global supply chain problems. In restaurants, the price of raw materials is only a small part of the total bill.
According to SellCell, which also tracks consumer data, millions of cash-strapped Americans are cutting back on luxury, entertainment, grocery shopping, turning off electrical appliances and looking for new sources of income amid the economic squeeze.
Nearly half of Americans say they are cutting back on movies, shows and other forms of entertainment to make ends meet, while 41.5 percent will stop eating out or ordering takeout.
Millions are looking for ways to make money, researchers said. Almost a fifth of those surveyed were looking for another job, and more than a tenth are selling old televisions, computers and other technological equipment to raise money.
Polls from KFF, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News and others show that inflation and gas prices were important to voters in the upcoming midterms, which will determine which party controls Congress.
Gun violence, access to abortion and the cost of prescription drugs were also top concerns.
A shopper holds groceries as he waits to check out at a grocery store in San Francisco, California, as inflation forces millions of households to cut back on everyday basics